Fiona Debell creates beautifully, colour-filled art for clients across the world. Primarily an abstract artist, she believes in the power of ‘now’ - drawing inspiration from many beautiful daily moments. We interviewed Fiona to learn more about her practice, inspirations, and what she is working on today.
1. How does your creative day look like and what inspires you to make art? Has your creative day changed due to Covid-19?
One of my favourite things about being a full-time artist is the freedom to create the way I need to create. My time is my own. Having said that, the key to success for me is discipline. I have 2 distinct work areas - my studio and my office. I usually start in the office - it's where I do the boring admin stuff as well as get creative with my website, social media, and marketing. My ‘reward’ is heading into the studio. It doesn’t always pan out like that, but it is always my aim at the start of the day.
Covid-19 had quite a profound effect on my day. With my family at home, I had to consider where I was and how I was working - plus the first few months of the pandemic left me feeling very creatively flat. Having said that, I feel that this side of Covid-19 has made me more productive and focussed than ever before. I have rediscovered my love of primary colour after a period of very demure and soft work.
2. Tell us more about your art studio.
My studio is ‘technically’ the entire basement space of my home - though my family will tell you that it tends to creep out into the house (and outdoor space). I love to work on very large-scale pieces and the configuration of the entrance to my studio means I often work on these in the main house - they just will not fit through the door!
I work flat, rather than on an easel - so the composition of each piece is created from above. I generally like my work to be flexible to the collector - so different orientations stimulate different reads of the art. It is important to me that the collector is never bored. Working on a flat surface and being able to walk around my work means I can see each variation with ease and make my own calls on the story I am telling.
3. How did you first get interested in your medium?
I want to concentrate on my Ethereal collection here, as it has truly become my focus in 2021. Having painted with acrylics for most of my life, several years ago I saw a new style of ink in my local art store, and having never seen anything like them before, I was intrigued. I purchased a set and went home to play.
My practice is very intuitive, but I also like to understand my mediums. I educated myself on the products, their uses and attended several courses on application. As with all my art, I needed to work with the medium and make it my own. Initially working on Yupo paper and finishing the work with resin, I progressed to introducing ink into my Royal Robes collection - the purity of the colour is unparalleled. Ultimately, in 2019 I introduced my Ethereal collection - ink on canvas.
Ink is not an easy choice. The main difference between ink and paint is that I am working with dye rather than pigment. Essentially this allows me to create superbly vibrant sets of colour - very pure and deep, using the dilution of the ink to create hues and chromatic effects. Many viewers assume I am working with watercolour as the effect can be similar through the creation of transparent layers that build tone. Ink however is not forgiving - one wrong move and it's all over. Once applied to the canvas the ink cannot be removed. I have to be very sure of each layer as I apply it.
4. Describe your style in one sentence.
5. Has your style changed over time?
Absolutely - I think it changes month to month in many ways. Each new piece is a learning experience for the next. How did the colours meld, how can I improve my technique, what was tricky about this piece? Each time I learn something.
I have become very focused this year, moving from subtle, quiet palettes in 2020 to bright primary rainbow hues to inject vibrancy to my collectors’ space. I still love my delicate work, but my general mood is reflected in my palette choice. Today I want to make happy art. My concern is not on the subject, or what someone sees in my art, but in creating beauty. I want to create beautiful art.
6. What are your main artistic tools?
High-quality canvas, latex-free gloves, silicone wedges, and extra-large syringes.
7. Do you ever experience creativity blocks and how do you stay positive and inspired?
Absolutely. March through August 2020 was a creative desert for me. I could not bring myself to enter my studio. The kids and my husband were home. I was separated from my parents, (who live in the UK) and it greatly affected creative confidence. I felt the lack of any in-person connection was detrimental to my work and it weighed heavily. I am always inspired by my day and the people I meet. That was suddenly gone. However, my artist community was, in general, feeling the same way - and that connection and knowledge got me through.
I feel that as we emerge to a more normal state I am more creative than ever - for me the Maya Angelou quote “You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” is something to remember in times of self-doubt.
8. What artists - either contemporary or from history - have had an impact on you and your art practice?
When I was 18 years old I was lucky enough to go to the Tate Modern in London. When I entered the Rothko room I was physically moved. The scale and colour and depth of his work took me by surprise. I remember sitting on a bench and weeping. It would also be remiss of me not to mention the influence of Helen Frankenthaler. Her ‘Soak Stain’ technique where she created a liquefied, translucent effect that strongly resembled watercolour is certainly something I try to emulate. Whilst I use different mediums, the result is very influenced by her techniques and outcomes.
9. Do you think the art world has changed or will be changing due to the pandemic? If yes, how?
I do. I think many artists have been drawn together in support of one another in a very open way as never before. What I mean by that is honest peer-to-peer encouragement through the removal of competition. There is a feeling of mutual goodwill accompanied by a need to see success for all, at least in my art community. Creating can be very lonely, but the pandemic encouraged us to reach out virtually and figure out how we were going to make sense of our futures. Those who really worked on their business, as well as their art practice, have found new routes to collectors and admirers.
10. What project are you working on right now? What would you like to do next?
I am developing my Ethereal Collection and challenging myself to work with monochromatic compositions building up depth so that a canvas looks 3D, its true beauty lies in its ‘flatness’.